Into the Mountains! (Part 1)

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So much has happened in the past 7 days. My heart is incredibly full, and I struggle to write something that is less than novel-length. What story can I tell that will express everything that’s going on here?  How can I open my world to you?

Of all the little things which I hope to write about for you one day, I have picked several little ones which fit into the narrative of one weekend. Saturday and Sunday, I spent my time with a small group of kids, a doctor, his wife, and one of the other interns. We traveled to provide basic medical care to a little mountain village 3 or 4 hours from my home here.

In order to put on the medical clinic Saturday, we woke up at 4:15 a.m. and were leaving the house by 5. As I stumbled bleary-eyed through the dark with 4 of my siblings here and my fellow intern, our house parents called out last minute reminders to the kids and told us to have a good time. Then we drove a little farther, picked up one of the boys from the dorm, and began our long drive.

Pretty much everyone fell asleep immediately. I was the only passenger still awake as the sun was rising. Feeling a little carsick, I put in my iPod to distract myself and watched as the sun spilled light over the mountains and fields of my beloved Mexico. We left our state, passed through a second, and finished our trip in a third. I saw more of Mexico than I ever imagined, and I was struck by the beauty! Some parts reminded me of the hills of Eastern Kansas, which my family traverses fairly frequently to visit my grandmother. The only difference was the mountains encircling us. I gasped at the sheer beauty surrounding me.

When we finally wound our way up and down and up the mountains again, we found ourselves jumping out of the van into a different world. Someone pointed to the bathroom, a hole in the ground with a place to sit and a curtain for a door. We had come from the city and its suburbs to dirt roads and no plumbing for the day. Almost immediately, we began setting up the clinic. Since we interns are still working on our Spanish, it was hard to keep up with the fast pace of strange medical terms in another language. We weren’t able to help much with the set-up, but the kids and the guy from the dorm (who served as our immediate supervisor while the doctor was busy) quickly sorted the medicines and set up the necessary items.

Then we were ushered back up the hill and into a small building. An enchanting woman brought us tamales and tea as we sat around a huge table. As we ate, I noticed a wonderful sweet smell that countered the spicy tamales. Our host came in shortly thereafter and offered us any of the pastries we saw around us. We were sitting in a bakery! We finished our meal with sweet bread and headed off to work.

In the medical clinic, my job was to put labels on the boxes and bottles with instructions on how frequently to take the medicine. The doctor would check the patient, write a prescription, and give it to our supervisor. He would tell the kids what boxes to find, then pass them to us interns so we could label them. We had fun in between patients. Sometimes there were long waits, and we had to find something to do. I was doodling on scraps of paper when my fellow intern asked about my knowledge of Attic Greek. I spent the next few minutes transliterating the kids’ names into Greek, which was fun. At one point, the kids were given more pastries, which they brought down to share. After several hours, we broke for comida. Again gathered around the table, we ate eggs with chorizo and beans.

Then Doc gave us permission to explore a bit. Most of the kids wandered down a steep path, but with my fear of heights, I elected to stand with some of the villagers who were watching. The village children would occasionally smile at me, but they were very shy, and as my fellow intern pointed out, we are some of the few güeros they have seen. Prior to this trip, as far as we know, these people had only met one white person. It was an interesting experience.

When the kids wanted to explore further on, I headed back up the hill. I talked with the local pastor for a bit, then returned to the small church building where we were holding the clinic. I helped the boy who’d stayed behind to fill prescriptions. Finally, we were done for the night. We loaded up the van, climbed in, and began the hour drive to our hotel.

Upon arriving at the hotel, my fellow intern and I were rather excited. We’d never stayed in a hotel outside the US, and it was going to be an adventure! We quickly found out that the reservation for our room had been lost somehow, and the only room available for 2 people was for a married couple. Doc asked if we minded sharing a bed. We said it would be no problem and headed off to our new room laughing about how close we’d become in our 8 weeks together. Then we realized we’d been in Mexico for 8 weeks. That was rather shocking, to be honest. How have we been here so long? Where did the time go?

Well, another hour flew by as we chatted about our kids, our remaining time, and the work groups we’d encountered. Then we went back downstairs, reunited with our group, and walked outside. Doc led us through the town until we came to a little restaurant. Restaurant might not be the right word to explain this, though. I’d heard about places like this from the intern who lives at the dorm. Restaurants like this have a few long booths. You cram into a booth with your friends, sitting next to complete strangers as well. Out front, there’s a huge hunk of meat from which one of the workers slices pieces for tacos al pastor. After considering the menu, we asked Doc’s wife what she recommended. She told us the kids usually get the tacos al pastor, so we both decided on those. To drink, I ordered horchata, which is amazing! When the tacos arrived, we were shocked to find 5 tacos for each of us. Each taco consisted of 2 tortillas laid on top of each other, pork, cilantro, and onions. We added lime and dug in. They were the best tacos I’ve ever had! After the 3rd taco, I was getting worried about finishing. After the 4th, I was certain I couldn’t finish. I kept trying though. About halfway through my final taco, I stopped. One of my girls kept glancing at the half-finished taco. Finally she asked if I didn’t want it. I laughed, told her I couldn’t eat any more, and asked if she wanted it. Her eyes got really big, and she nodded enthusiastically. I handed it to her, and she devoured it!  We all had a good laugh about it because she’d already had chocolate milk and half a torta (which is a lot of food, trust me).

At last, we headed back to the hotel for the night. Falling into bed, my fellow intern and I wondered what the next day would hold. Unfortunately, y’all are going to have to wait to hear that story because this post is far too long already. Check back in a few days for Part 2!

¡Dios les bendiga!

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